Curious Kids: What Are The Main Factors In Forming Someone's Personality?


Author: Natalie Goulter

(MENAFN- The Conversation) “What are the main factors in forming someone's personality?” – Emma, age 10, from Shanghai

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Hello Emma, and thank you for this very interesting question!

Let's start by exploring what we mean by personality. Have you noticed no two people are completely alike? We all see, experience, and understand the world in different ways.

For example, some people love spending time with friends and being the centre of attention, whereas other people are more shy and enjoy having time to themselves.

Your unique personality is shaped by your genes as well as various influences in your environment. And your personality plays an important role in how you interact with the world.

Read more: Curious Kids: how did the first person evolve?

The big five

Did you know there are scientists who spend time researching personality? Their research is concerned with describing the ways people differ from each other , and understanding how these differences could be important for other parts of life such as our health and how well we do in school or at work.

There are many different perspectives on personality. A widely accepted viewpoint based on a lot of research is called the five factor model or the“big five”. According to this theory, a great deal of a person's personality can be summarised in terms of where they sit on five dimensions, called traits:

  • the introversion-extraversion trait refers to how much someone is outgoing and social (extroverted) or prefers being with smaller groups of friends or focusing on their own thoughts (introverted)

  • agreeableness captures how much someone tends to be cooperative and helps others

  • openness to experience refers to how much a person is creative and enjoys experiencing new things

  • neuroticism describes a person's tendency to experience negative feelings, like worrying about things that could go wrong

  • conscientiousness encompasses how much a person is organised, responsible, and dedicated to things that are important to them, like schoolwork or training for a sports team.

    A person can have high, low, or moderate levels of each of these traits. And understanding whether someone has higher or lower levels of the big five can tell us a lot about how we might expect them to behave in different situations.

    Read more: Curious Kids: how does our DNA relate to our personality and appearance?

    So what shapes our personalities?

    A number of factors shape our personalities , including our genes and social environment.

    Our bodies are made up of many very small structures called cells. Within these cells are genes. We inherit genes from our parents, and they carry the information needed to make our bodies and personalities. So, your personality may be a bit like your parents' personalities. For example, if you're an outgoing sort of person who loves to meet new people, perhaps one or both of your parents are very social too.


    Our personalities are influenced by the genes we get from our parents. KieferPix/Shutterstock

    Personalities are also affected by our environment, such as our experiences and our relationships with family and friends. For example, some research has shown our relationships with our parents can influence our personality. If we have loving and warm relationships, we may be more agreeable and open. But if our relationships are hurtful or stressful, this may increase our neuroticism.

    Another study showed that, over time, young children who were more physically active were less introverted (less shy) and less likely to get very upset when things don't go their way, compared to children who were less physically active. Although we don't know why this is for sure, one possible explanation is that playing sport leads to reduced shyness because it introduces children to different people.

    Read more: Curious Kids: why do some people worry more than others?

    While we're learning more about personality development all the time, research in this area presents quite a few challenges. Many different biological, cultural and environmental influences shape our development, and these factors can interact with each other in complex ways .

    Is our personality fixed once we become adults?

    Although we develop most of our personality when we are young, and people's personalities tend to become more stable as they get older, it is possible for aspects of a person's personality to change, even when they are fully grown.

    A good example of this can be seen among people who seek treatment for conditions like anxiety or depression. People who respond well to working with a psychologist can show decreases in neuroticism , indicating they become less likely to worry a lot or feel strong negative feelings when something stressful happens.

    Hello, Curious Kids! Do you have a question you'd like an expert to answer? Ask an adult to send your question to ...


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